‘Iraq blocs talking to Iran over standoff’

Iraqi political blocs have held talks with Iran over a standoff sparked by arrest warrant of Sunni VP Tareq al-Hashemi.

Baghdad: Iraqi political blocs have held talks with Iran over a standoff sparked by a warrant for the arrest of the country`s Sunni Arab vice president that has
stoked sectarian tensions, officials said on Tuesday.

Charges that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi ran a death
squad have plunged Iraq into political crisis, and
representatives of several parties have spoken to top
officials in Tehran, according to senior political sources in
Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region, where Hashemi is
holed up.

The United States, which completed a troop pullout a week
ago, has long charged that Iran plays a nefarious role in Iraq
by funding and supporting militias, and interfering in Iraqi
politics, charges Tehran rejects.

"Iraqi parties are contacting Iran to mediate over the
Hashemi issue," an official close to Prime Minister Nuri
al-Maliki said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, three political sources belonging to parties
including the ruling Kurdistania alliance said a senior
Iranian delegation met with Kurdish regional President Massud
Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, in recent
days to discuss the Hashemi arrest warrant.

The delegation, which includes officials from the Iranian
intelligence service and army, was headed by Sardar Majidi,
the deputy chief of the Quds Force of Iran`s elite
Revolutionary Guards, according to the sources, who did not
want to be named.

They said the delegation pushed for a meeting of senior
political leaders, but Maliki refused to attend any meeting
held in Arbil, and Barzani declined to join talks in Baghdad.
Two independent Kurdish newspapers, Awene and Baas, have
also reported that a top Iranian delegation visited Iraq and
made the request.

The Iranian embassy in Baghdad did not respond for comment.

The official close to Maliki confirmed the premier would
not attend any political meeting outside of Baghdad, while
Barzani`s spokesman Faisal al-Dabbagh said the regional
president was "doing lots of work to solve the political
crisis in Iraq, but he will not visit Baghdad."

Talabani, meanwhile, met with parliament speaker Osama
al-Nujaifi, a statement from his political party said. The
pair called for a "public national conference" but did not
resolve the issue of where it would be held, or when.

Crisis talks that were set to have been held in
parliament on Friday were cancelled when several key blocs
declined to attend.

Iraq`s political row, now in its second week, has seen
authorities charge Hashemi with running a death squad and
Maliki call for the sacking of his Sunni deputy Saleh
al-Mutlak after he called the premier a dictator "worse than
Saddam Hussein".


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